The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Branch Militant

Seneca Villagers yearned for a prosperous future as free Black people and thus endeavored to foster the growth of the village, believing that the village could be a permanent and safe place where free Black people or their descendants could live. In Seneca Village, there were many institutions like churches and schools, which were considered symbols of the African American community’s fortitude, wealth, and longevity.

This is the map of Seneca Village and the yellow button        indicates the location of the AME Zion Branch Church Branch Militant.

Why was AME Zion Church Branch Militant built in Seneca Village?

In 1807, the Common Council (the city government) was concerned that the burial sites located in the extremely congested downtown area could spread yellow fever epidemics and other diseases. At that time, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which was located downtown, buried its church members on these burial sites. Thus, the government requested that the AME Zion not bury any more individuals in the memorial park, making the trustees of AME Zion request entombment space somewhere else in the city. The Common Council allowed temporary space in the Potter's Field situated in the Parade Grounds of Washington Square. Once the congregation had depleted this internment space, the AME Zion Church bought eighteen lots in Seneca Village in 1825 and built a burial ground for the church in 1827. It is believed that the AME Zion Church had at least two, and perhaps three, large burial sites in the village on 85th and 86th Street.

Twenty-five years later, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church built a branch of the church called the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Branch Militant in the village, becoming one of the first purchasers of land in Seneca Village. By 1853, there were thirty permanent members and around one hundred regular attendees of the church.